Orlando Shooting Families Sue Facebook, Twitter, and Google

Defendants helped ISIS 'spread extremist propaganda, raise funds, attract new recruits': complaint
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2016 2:50 PM CST
Orlando Shooting Families Sue Facebook, Twitter, and Google
Orlando police officers direct family members away from a fatal shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016.   (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

What responsibility do social media platforms hold for radicalizing individuals who then carry out attacks? According to families of the victims of the June shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, enough to warrant a lawsuit, per Fox News. Named in the federal civil complaint filed Monday by the families of Tevin Crosby, Javier Jorge-Reyes, and Juan Ramon Guerrero: defendants Twitter, Facebook, and Google (as YouTube's owner), accused of giving "material support" to the Islamic State and helping set gunman Omar Mateen down the radicalization path. The defendants did so, per the suit, by giving ISIS "accounts they use to spread extremist propaganda, raise funds, and attract new recruits." In fact, the suit postulated, without the networks' help, "the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible."

Whether the social networks can avoid liability comes down to the interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a provision that keeps publishers and online service providers out of trouble for content that users post. What some are saying could weaken that defense are the often-secretive algorithms that drive these social networks. "The defendants create unique content by matching ISIS postings with advertisements based upon information known about the viewer" and "finance ISIS's activities by sharing advertising revenue," a lawyer for the three families tells Fox. Google and Twitter have yet to offer comment on the suit, but Facebook said in a statement, per USA Today: "We take swift action to remove this content when it's reported to us. We sympathize with the victims and their families." (More Pulse Orlando shooting stories.)

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